First modification: 07/30/2021 – 17:52
One thing is clear two months before the elections that will mark the end of Angela Merkel’s era as chancellor in Germany: Voters are undecided about who is the best candidate to succeed her.
It says a lot about political confidence in a country when in a preference survey the option that wins by far is “none of the candidates”.
That is precisely the case in Germany. In the race to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel, 45 percent of the Germans assures that they do not prefer any of the three politicians who aspire to the head of government: the conservative Armin Laschet, Annalena Baerbock of the Greens and the social democrat Olaf Scholz.
While the Germans do not directly elect their chancellor (see box), the fact that the three candidates have such a poor image is concerning with just two months to go before the federal elections.
And also at a time when Germany faces significant political challenges, including the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the damage caused by severe flooding in the west of the country.
Merkel’s indisputable weight
One of the reasons for this discontent has to do with Angela Merkel’s political weight. For better or for worse, Germans are more than used to his style of government, and many appreciate the stability it has brought to the country since he took office nearly 16 years ago.
It is evident that after so long there is a certain desire for changeBut at the same time there is no question that unlike her potential successors, Merkel remains widely popular in Germany.
A survey of principles July revealed that it is the policy with the highest levels of favorability in the country: 69 percent are satisfied with its performance. Who follows him, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, with 22 percentage points less.
Thus, Merkel is effectively overshadowing Laschet, Baerbock and Scholz, who are not only trying to position themselves thematically in the face of the elections but are ultimately also competing for the attention of the Germans with the outgoing chancellor.
Furthermore, this year’s elections have an unusual component. In Germany there is no limit to the times a chancellor can be re-elected, so power tends to be revalidated at the ballot box.
But with Merkel announcing in 2018 that she would not run for this year’s election, the Germans face the scenario of having an entirely new slate of candidates. And this may be generating uncertainty among the 60 million called to vote on September 26.
Lapses in campaign could benefit Scholz
But the lack of popularity of the three candidates is not only due to the evident contrast with Merkel, but also to their own performance or that of their parties.
For example, the popularity of Laschet, the candidate from the conservative CDU / CSU bloc, was seriously affected after he was caught on camera laughing profusely on a visit to the flood zone. Laschet was criticized for his behavior “unprofessional”.
And Baerbock of the Green Party has also suffered from unnecessary campaign slip-ups. Not only did she have to correct her resume after she was accused of exaggerating her relationships with international organizations, but she also admitted to having made a mistake by not declaring additional income and had to defend herself of accusations of plagiarism in his latest book.
Who could benefit from these lapses is precisely the social democrat Scholz, whose low popularity is due, on the one hand, to a lack of prominence that led some German media to describe him as a “hopeless candidate“Or a politician”invisible”.
German public television even explained that Scholz seemed “defeated”In the battle for the attention of public opinion.
But, on the other hand, it is also due to the general bad moment that his party is experiencing. The Social Democrats (SPD) are one of Germany’s two most important parties, the political home of three of the eight chancellors the country has had since the postwar period: Willy Brandt (1969-1974), Helmut Schmidt (1974-1982) and Gerhard Schroeder (1998-2005). The other five have been members of the CDU.
The SPD, however, has been in a deep crisis for years, so until now not even the most optimistic experts considered that it could set the tone in the September elections.
But Scholz has in his favor the fact that he is the most experienced politician of the three candidates. This is something that the Germans recognize, who in surveys have indicated that it has more skills to be chancellor than Laschet or Baerbock.
And this is a feature that he has tried to exploit. Scholz is currently the country’s vice chancellor and finance minister, a key position in which he must organize financial aid for both flood victims and those affected by the pandemic.
This high government profile could help you improve your profile as a candidate, especially if Laschet and Baerbock fail to recover from their respective slumps.
The answer will be known in the next two months. At the moment, it is clear that none of the three candidates generates much confidence, a problem for the Germans as they make the difficult decision about who will be the next leader of the country. A leader who will usher in a new political era after 16 years of Angela Merkel.